Thursday, January 30, 2014 #813 - HOT or NOT 2014

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     * Listeners have submitted dozens of theme park related topics 
     * The guys debate each one and decide whether it's HOT or NOT
     * This week's FIRST DROP focusesDisney's FastPass+ system
     * We  take a look at a new commercial for FastPass+.
     * Plus, we have news about how you can be on next week's show!

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Goliath at Six Flags Great America - A History Lesson (Part 2)

By CM Venom

1990-2011: The Howl Of The Iron Wolf
The spring of 1990 brought the new Great America brochure, and the announcement of the park’s new attraction Iron Wolf, a standup looping coaster. As in previous years, the brochure was produced months before the completion of the ride, forcing Six Flags to use placeholder images for promotion. In this case, photos of the Six Flags Magic Mountain standup coaster Shockwave were used in the brochure. (Although it was never specifically stated that the photos weren’t of Iron Wolf, the brush covered hills and mountains in the background pretty much confirmed this coaster wasn’t anywhere near Illinois.)

Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard had left Giovanola in 1988, and created their own company, the now-famous B&M. Great America tasked them specifically to create a new coaster for the park, and Iron Wolf was the result of their first full endeavor as a company. (The relationship between B&M and Great America would continue to expand; in 1992, the company would install the game-changing Batman: The Ride, and would add further offerings such as the hyper-twister Raging Bull, Superman: Ultimate Flight, and the second Wing Coaster in North America, X-Flight.

Iron Wolf boasted a 90 foot long twisting first drop, a vertical loop, and a corkscrew over 2900 feet of maroon and grey track. The trains created for the coaster featured an over-the-shoulder restraint and a bicycle seat-like protrusion for added support. The restraint system was mounted on a vertically-moving base, allowing each rider to adjust into a comfortable riding position regardless of their physical height. These bases would move freely during loading, but would lock into place at a point before dispatch.

Invariably, some riders would find pre-ride amusement in bouncing the frame up and down repeatedly, causing some to become locked into an uncomfortable position either squatting low with knees bent or supporting most of their body weight crotched on the “seat”. (Having ridden the coaster in both of those positions, I can equivocally state that both were pretty damned uncomfortable.)

Iron Wolf would remain in that spot for 21 years. The standup coaster would remain popular for several years before it began to gain a reputation for roughness, and wait times would only exceed 30-40 minutes on the busiest days of attendance. As the coaster aged, complaints of headbanging became commonplace, although most of the serious discomfort could be avoided by keeping one’s head firmly pressed against the headrest. (An alternate method to avoid rattling cranial trauma was to stick one’s neck out as far as possible and lean the head into the turns and elements, certainly a braver option.) The standup genre never really gained widespread popularity in the industry, and B&M would only create a handful more before focusing their attention on different products. The last B&M standup installation was the Georgia Scorcher in 1999, although the company still technically offers them for sale.

Great America announced the impending closure of Iron Wolf in August of 2011, giving guests about a month to experience the venerable coaster for the last time. The coaster gave its final rides on September 5, 2011 to a small group of American Coaster Enthusiasts and a few park guests who exhibited questionable judgment. The final cycles were host to little fanfare aside from a few balloons in the station and a few offhand comments during train dispatch. (There was rumored to be a sheet cake involved in the proceedings, but if there was one, park employees wisely kept it hidden until the departure of the ACErs.)

In a throwback to the days of Ride Rotation, it was announced that Iron Wolf would not be scrapped, but moved to Six Flags America in Maryland, where it would be reassembled and re-themed as “Apocalypse”. Great America began removing signage and portions of the station during the park’s Fright Fest celebration, and once the heavy machinery was brought in, the coaster was down in a matter of weeks. Apocalypse opened at SFA early in the 2012 season, and the Great America plot of land was left empty once again.

2012-2013: Waiting For A Giant
When SFGAm opened for the 2012 season, the only thing remaining on the site were a few remnants of concrete footers, most of the queue line, and the stark and barren Iron Wolf station. As most of the coaster was tucked away from view and only a relatively small portion of the site actually bordered the County Fair midway, most guests didn’t even seem to notice that anything was missing (although I did witness one individual ask a park employee where “Steel Wolf” was located). During Fright Fest, the site was temporarily transformed into a small walkthrough attraction that served as the finale to a zombie-themed overlay of a leg of the park’s railroad. Costumed actors and busted ride props dotted the scene, and most guests enjoyed the mild scares not knowing that they were walking on the actual “gravesite” of two of the park’s more unique coasters.

In August of 2013, the park announced the imminent arrival of Goliath, which is currently being constructed on the County Fair site, making it the third roller coaster to occupy that space. (Other park sites have played host to a larger number of different attractions, most notably the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom location used for If You Had Wings, If You Could Fly, Dreamflight, Take Flight, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, but this is a first where coasters are concerned.) Similar to before, parts of the foundation and lower framework of the Iron Wolf station will be re-used, but most of the entirety of the Goliath station will be a new construction.

Keep listening to and checking this blog, and we'll bring you the latest Goliath news as we draw ever closer to the opening of this monumental record-breaking coaster. I'm CM Venom, and thanks for reading.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Get your topic in for HOT OR NOT!

We pride ourselves on interactivity around here.

So we're looking for you guys to step up to the microphone and be on this week's show!

We're bringing back and old off-season favorite this week - HOT OR NOT!

Mike and EB will take a look at a topic and then decide if it's HOT or NOT.

For instance...

B&M Wing Rider Coasters - HOT OR NOT?
Windseeker - HOT OR NOT?
The Yeti at Expedition Everest - HOT OR NOT?

You get the idea.

To make things interesting, the listener who sends in the topic that generates the best discussion will win a cool item from our prize closet!

Here's how to participate! Send your topic by Tuesday, January 28th at 8:00pm EST though one of these ways:

* E-mail us your answer by using the address over on the right,
* Write on our Facebook Page,
* Tweet us at @CoasterRadio
* Use our Contact Page!
* Call our voicemail line at 206-339-3360

Thursday, January 23, 2014 #812 - 2014 Preview with’s Arthur Levine

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     * We take a look at the most anticipated new attractions for 2014, including: 
     * Wizarding World Expansion - Universal Studios Orlando
     * Banshee - Kings Island
     * Falcon’s Fury - Busch Gardens Tampa
     * Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom - Six Flags Great Adventure
     * FireChaser Express - Dollywood
     * Lightning Run - Kentucky Kingdom
     * Goliath - Six Flags Great America
     * Wonder Mountain’s Guardian - Canada’s Wonderland
     * Thunderbolt Reborn - Luna Park, Coney Island
     * New England Skyscreamer - Six Flags New England
     * El Loco Coaster - Circus Circus Adventuredome
     * Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train - Magic Kingdom

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Download the FREE App for iOS (you can call the show directly from the app)
Call 206-339-3360

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Goliath at Six Flags Great America - A History Lesson (Part 1)

By CM Venom

Six Flags Great America's Goliath is quite possibly the most anticipated coaster of 2014, a unique Rocky Mountain Construction design that will break world records for top speed (72 mph) and the tallest (180 feet) and steepest drop (85 degrees) on a wooden coaster.

And although most of the industry's eyes will be on Gurnee, Illinois around Memorial Day weekend for its debut, many from outside the area may be unaware of the history of the plot of land where Goliath will make its home.

As a SFGAm devotee from Opening Day, I invite you to join me as we explore some of the surprising history and trivia behind that small, thin plot of land.

1976-1984: Simpler Days, Marriott Days
Marriott’s Great America opened in Gurnee in 1976 with a level of themeing and detail that rivaled any of its amusement park contemporaries of the day. Each of the six sections of the park (Carousel Plaza, Hometown Square, Orleans Place, Yankee Harbor, Yukon Territory, and County Fair) embraced its theme in everything from architecture, entertainment, food, and shopping. (Up until its full transformation to a Six Flags property, employees even wore section-specific costumes, something nearly unheard of outside a Disney park. And no, I refuse to capitalize “park”.) The Chicago metropolitan area had been without a noteworthy amusement park since the closing of Riverview in 1967, and Great America became an immediate success.

Bordered to the south by a Gurnee city street, to the east by backstage employee areas, and to the north and west by parking lot, the park would have to look within its confines to create room for new attractions. The section of County Fair in question was originally home to landscaping and the Zierer Wave Swinger known as the Whirligig, and was adjacent to the tracks of the Great America Scenic Railway, the railroad route that encircled the park. The Whirligig was uprooted in the offseason after 1984 and moved to its new home in the center of Yankee Harbor. (This was a puzzling decision to me in my youth, as the calliope-themed swings had very little to do with the 19th century Atlantic seaboard surroundings, and signaled the first crack in the park’s veneer of immersive themeing.) Due to expansion over the following years, the Whirligig would come to inhabit three separate locations in Yankee Harbor, all within several hundred feet of each other.

After a number of high-profile additions to the park, Marriott decided to get out of the amusement park business, and Six Flags purchased the park in 1984. No one knew what the future would hold, but Six Flags already had something big in the works.

1985-1989: A Force Ahead Of Its Time
We're spoiled these days. Fans of theme parks and roller coasters have months, sometimes years of lead time when it comes to the next big attraction. The announcement of a new coaster is almost always accompanied these days by a virtual POV and if one is so inclined, they could attend a convention where they'll be able to actually sit in the coaster's train months ahead of the actual opening of the ride.
It wasn't like that in the 80's. Most people wouldn't find anything out about their local park's new attraction until the local news stations would run a three minute piece, or maybe not even until they walked into the park for the first time that season. Only true amusement park geeks of the 80's knew that during the spring, their local park would produce that year's brochure, to be found at highway rest areas and in the lobbies of hotels.

That being said, when on road trips with my family each year during the spring, I would keep an impatient eye on the collection of attraction brochures available at highway rest areas and in the lobbies of hotels. Sure enough, one day in 1985, I spotted the familiar red, white, and blue Great America logo on a brochure tucked in between advertisements for the Chicago Botanical Gardens and the Wisconsin Dells’ Paul Bunyan All-You-Can-Eat Cook Shanty. Not knowing what to expect, I grabbed one with greedy hands.

“Z-Force?” I remember thinking upon seeing the cover. “What the hell is a Z-Force?”
Z-Force was the first (and only) Space Diver coaster built by Giovanola for Intamin, a bizarre design that eschewed the traditional horizontal footprint of steel coaters, and instead built the mass of its layout vertically. As the coaster was a first-of-its-kind design, Six Flags had no photographs available to advertise the ride, and instead used artist’s renditions in their brochure. Opening up the pamphlet, this is what I saw:

Let’s be honest. Even by today’s envelope-pushing standards, it’s difficult to get a grasp on exactly what’s supposed to be going on in that illustration. Six Flags did their best to explain the ride, using phrases such as “cork-screw like turns” and “falling through space”, but that odd perspective and flimsy-looking supports in the drawing made Z-Force look like something out of a Coasterboy nightmare on three doses of Ny-quil. To say that Z-Force looked more than a little terrifying was quite the understatement.

On my first visit to the park that year, I was relieved to see that the coaster looked much more substantial in person than in the artist’s rendition, but it was still the strangest structure of its type that I’d ever seen. To fit into the constraints of the area between the railroad tracks and the park midway, the coaster featured a long but relatively thin footprint. To accommodate the coaster’s trains, which seated four across instead of the traditional two, the track was much wider than usual, and featured a thicker, rectangular-shaped spine. (Looking back, it’s no surprise that then-Giovanola employees Walter Bolliger and Claude Mabillard were involved in the ride’s design, the track was very similar to what would become standard for B&M in several years.)

An eighty-five foot height might not sound very intimidating by today’s standards, but in 1985, the look of this blue and white steel monstrosity was enough to stop me dead in my tracks with trepidation. It took me until minutes before park closing before I mustered up enough courage to get in line, and waited over an hour while watching trains roar through the dives and turns high above the queue line.

The actual ride itself didn’t quite live up to my giddy expectations. After the lift hill, the train made a 180 degree turn and slowly rolled the length of the structure toward the first hairpin dive into the mass of the structure. (From the front row of the train it was quite an intimidating sight, creeping ever closer to where the track just seemed to vanish into nothingness.)

The dives themselves were no more than about 35 feet, and the trains never really seemed to pick up any serious momentum at any point. The most forceful portions of the ride were a dive element taken from the bottom (similar to today’s Immellman inversions), and an upward helix near the conclusion. I would ride Z-Force several times that summer and over the next few years, but nothing would match the slightly fearful excitement of that initial ride.

1987-1989: Sudden Vacancy
Z-Force was part of a now-defunct program called Six Flags Ride Rotation, a collection of coasters and flat rides that would be moved from one park to another to provide something “new” without a serious expenditure of capital.

With little to no warning, Z-Force was removed from Great America after the 1987 season, and was installed at Six Flags Over Georgia in time for a 1988 opening. Z-Force’s loading station was moved across the park, and was used for the Intamin Bobsled coaster known as Rolling Thunder that opened in 1989. (It is a common misconception that the station for Z-Force was slightly reconfigured and used for Iron Wolf, the B&M standup coaster that would debut in 1990.

In reality, only parts of the station’s foundation and lower frame were re-utilized, and a brand-new new station was built atop them.) The Z-Force site would remain vacant and empty until work began after the 1989 season for the next chapter of its existence.

Keep reading the Coasterradio blog for Part Two, coming soon!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

KD40 Birthday Bash

Kings Dominion is celebrating their 40th Anniversary this year.

As part of the celebration, they are throwing a pretty cool party.

The KD40 Birthday Bash will be a "Coaster Enthusiast Family and Friends" event. It will take place on Saturday, May 10, 2014 and will feature upscale food, interactive games, prizes, exclusive ride time and more.

Here's what they tentatively have in store:

Registration and Welcome

12:30 - 5:30pm
Free time in the park, which will include One Ride Exit Pass per person on two of the following five rides:
     * Intimidator 305
     * Volcano: The Blast Coaster
     * Dominator
     * Grizzly
     * Flying Eagles

6:00 - 7:00pm
Cocktail hour with Games, Snacks, PEANUTS character appearances

7:00 - 8:00pm
Dinner featuring carving stations, build your own side dish and more

8:00 - 10:00pm
Dancing with a Live Band

10:15 - 11:00pm
EXCLUSIVE ride time on Intimidator 305 PLUS another ride to be announced on May 10th following a participant vote prior to the event.

Pricing for Birthday Bash is still being finalized. There will be special pricing for 2014 Season Passholders and pricing for non Season Passholders, which will include admission to Kings Dominion for the day.

This sounds good to me!!! As long as I can stop by and pay my respects to the new "Singing Mushrooms," I'll be a happy man.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Best Ride Experiences of 2014

By Justin Martin

As Mike and EB went through their predictions for 2014, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the upcoming year and go through what might be the most successful and least successful additions to theme parks nation wide.

Best New Experience
I think this might be the easiest of the bunch.  Hands down it will be The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley. The anticipation for this land has been feverish since the first shovel full of dirt was moved. If it's anything like the original land at Islands of Adventure, this addition is going to be a grand slam. And if the rumor mill is to be believed, it sounds as if this new land will be even better than the first!

Best New Coaster
I had a really tough time deciding this category. In 2014, we can look forward to the Gringotts Bank Coaster, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (finally), Medusa, and Goliath. I think that once again Universal will take this award home. The Gringotts bank coaster, from what has been leaked through online videos, is said to some things we have never experienced on a roller coaster before. It looks like we can expect a highly themed queue and a fast paced storyline as we fly past vaults and dragons. It's sure to be the most talked about experience of the year.

Iron Rides: The Best
While looking at some of the upcoming steel beasts that are coming to the coaster skyline this year, I believe that Six Flags Great America's Goliath will be the best of what that company has to offer at any of its parks. With never before attempted inversions, it promises to get a large amount of the press this year.

Least Talked About Attraction
While looking at the list of attractions coming to theme and amusement parks I think that Walt Disney World's "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train" will get the least amount of hype. While I think it has the chance to be just as good as Gringotts Bank Coaster, I think that the Orlando press will be spending their time down the street. Even though this new attraction will feature some of the most impressive Audio-Animatronic figures to ever be in a Disney attraction, I don’t think that it’s going to be able to topple Potter.

Thursday, January 16, 2014 #811 - The 2013 "Best New Attraction of the Year" Award

     * We present the "Best New Attraction of the Year" Award 
     * We take a look at all of the nominees, including:
     * Flying Turns - Knoebels
     * Gold Striker - California's Great America
     * Iron Rattler - Six Flags Fiesta Texas
     * The Smiler - Alton Towers
     * Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin - Sea World Orlando
     * Texas Skyscreamer - Six Flags Over Texas
     * Outlaw Run - Silver Dollar City
     * Full Throttle - Six Flags Magic Mountain
     * Safari Off Road Adventure - Six Flags Great Adventure
     * Coast Rider - Knott's Berry Farm
     * White Lightning - Fun Spot Orlando
     * Undertow - Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
     * Gatekeeper - Cedar Point
     * We also take a look at a new "Titanic" themed attraction in China

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Download the FREE App for iOS (you can call the show directly from the app)
Call 206-339-3360

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Single Best Ride Experience of 2013

By Dave Voskuhl

You know those years when everything seems to fall into place, and tons of great opportunities seem to fall in your lap?

That was 2013 for me.

Last year was probably the biggest coaster year I’ve ever had, so narrowing down the entire year to the single best ride experience was quite difficult for me.

I’ll start from the beginning.  In April, I decided to travel to North Carolina to visit some friends who recently moved to Raleigh.  Naturally, I convinced them (it didn’t take much convincing) to see some amusement parks with me.

I’d never been to Carowinds, and it had been about 10 years since my last trip to Kings Dominion.  So I was excited to see both Intimidators, in addition to the other coasters.

The Carowinds Intimidator is a fantastic B&M Hyper, but I think Afterburn might still be the best coaster at the park.  Then it was on to Kings Dominion and I-305, which I’d been aching to ride since it debuted. Related note: I’m admittedly a Millennium Force fanboy.  No judging please.

If you asked me in January what my best experience of the year would be, 305 would have been the hands-down favorite.  It’s definitely intense, and it’s very fun; but being partial to hills and airtime, it didn’t blow me away.  And again, it may not be the best coaster in the park, compliments of Dominator.  In any case, the trip to Carolina/Virginia was a strong start to the year.

The month of May rolled around, and I found myself at media day for Gatekeeper, at Cedar Point.  Now I’m a Cedar Point junkie, so I was thrilled to see a big new coaster added to the park.  And boy does that front gate look fantastic now!  As a ride though, Gatekeeper was strong, but again not a grand slam.

It wasn’t until October that I found the rides that really blew me away.  My friend and I are avid haunt fans as well, and we took a trip to sunny Los Angeles for a plethora of rides and haunts.  On day one, we went to Knott’s Berry Farm/Scary Farm.  What an incredible event!  I had been to Knott’s once, but Xcelerator and Timber Mountain Log Ride were down for maintenance during my previous visit.  On this trip, Xcelerator was pure thrill.

It’s a great adrenaline rush, and with no line, we endured more than our share of rides.  And their haunt event absolutely lives up to its reputation.  They have some of the scariest mazes I’ve seen.  With that said, Knott’s is quickly becoming one of my favorite parks.

Day two was spent at Six Flags Magic Mountain.  Again, I’d been there before, but hadn’t been on Superman backwards, or Lex Luthor Drop of Doom.  I’ll say a few things here.  First, Superman backwards is infinitely better than forward.  There’s something about screaming down that track backwards at 100 mph, and then looking down face-first as you climb the tower that is just surreal.  Second, Drop of Doom is absolutely the most terrifying ride I’ve ever experienced.  If you’re ascending the tower when the coaster launches, you can feel the entire structure swaying, and we’re talking multiple feet here.  Did I have a death grip on the restraint for my first ride? Yes.  Did I ride it multiple times afterward? Yes.  Drop of Doom is terrifying, but it’s also fantastic for the thrill-seekers.
We concluded our trip at Universal Studios Hollywood for Halloween Horror Nights.  The rides there are fun, but nothing to write home about.  Apologies, Transformers.

So without further ado, my top ride experience for 2013 is Timber Mountain Log Ride at Knott’s Berry Farm.

I had heard that this thing was fun, and as I said, it wasn’t operating during my first visit to Knott’s due to refurbishment.  But this year I was able to ride it, and it was just phenomenal.  There are so many great scenes along the way, and despite your boat travelling so fast throughout the course, it’s still a very long ride.  The downside (or perhaps upside) is that since you’re going so fast, you can’t get your eyes on everything that’s going on.  As a result, when I got off the ride, the only thing I wanted to do was to get right back in line and do it again.  And I think more than anything, that’s what makes a great experience.

So despite so many giant coasters that I was able to experience for the first time, a classic log flume takes the cake.  Being an adrenaline junkie, I’m even surprised at myself.  Maybe I’m becoming soft in my older age…  Nah, definitely not. :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Boutique Parks

By Justin Martin

The first (and quite possibly the last) boutique park designed and seen through to completion was none other than SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove.

Discovery Cove is a unique “boutique park” because it caters to one central idea that provides an intimate experience for a select number of guests per day.

Discovery Cove was created to provide animal experiences where guests can swim, pet and meet live animals in a naturally themed environment. A small number of guests are allowed into the park through advanced reservations to experience this one of a kind park.

Last week, I wrote about "Lord of the Rings" and wondered if that franchise could inspire its own park. This question can be pointed towards any of the major film franchises... from the" Lord of the Rings" to "Harry Potter" to "Star Wars."

Could these powerful franchises have enough intellectual property to inspire an entire park? The simple answer is no.

Now before I hear the boo-birds let me explain.

The main problem of having an entire themed park based upon just a single property is that it only appeals to a narrow group of fans. Sure, the world fell in love with Harry Potter and his friends... but the majority of park visitors wouldn’t want to spend an entire day in that world.

Harry Potter works at Universal because after a few hours in Hogsmeade, you can journey to Jurassic Park or Seuss Landing or Marvel Superhero Island. Those lands appeal to all types of people... not just fans of the film.

While "super fans" would love an entire day's experience of nothing but Harry Potter or Star Wars, we won't see a 5th Gate at Disney or Universal's rumored 3rd gate themed to just a single franchise, no matter how popular.

The expansion at Disney California Adventure cost upwards of 1 billion dollars.  That's the average amount to build a entire park now.

The cost to build an park based on just one property is outweighed by time.

Every franchise has a time period during which it is popular.  At some point, that popularity will fade.

While we would love to see an entirely immersive park themed completely around our favorite films, I think it is safe to say we won’t see a boutique park again.

But I do believe we are beginning to see a new era of super themed and high immersive lands in the future.

Next week, see how the battle for the immersive experience is being fought on two different battlefields in Orlando when Universal takes on Disney.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Best New Attraction of 2013

This week, we'll unveil the winner of our "Best New Attraction of 2013" award. But we'd like your help in determining the winner! VOTE NOW!

Thursday, January 09, 2014 #810 - "Coaster"damus

     * A look at an innovative new dark ride/coaster design 
     * What is the most innovative ride system ever?
     * A look back at our 2013 theme park predictions
     * What did we get right and what did we get wrong?
     * A Live Trip Report from Six Flags Fiesta Texas
     * Bold predictions for 2014!

Direct Podcast Link 
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Talk about this episode by leaving a comment here on the blog.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Lord of the Rings - Is It Worth The Gamble?

By Justin Martin

A few months ago rumors began swirling yet again of theme park possibilities for the Lord of the Rings franchise.

We heard that the two major players in the industry, Disney and Universal, were both possibly involved in attempting to acquire the rights for the massively popular film franchise. But would those dollars from the box office turn into dollars for one of the most successful theme park companies in the world?

Personally, I believe not, and here is exactly why.

Age Gap
The original trilogy was released between 2001 and 2003, after that we had not seen any more films to the franchise until 2012 and now with the release of “The Desolation of Smaug” in 2013.  That’s a nine-year gap. It never allowed for an attachment to the franchise like Harry Potter did.

Harry potter “grew up” with most people over an 11-year period, without any breaks. People don’t have a much of an attachment to the Lord of the Rings as they do Potter which I believe is a huge reason for the Wizarding World’s success at Islands of Adventure.

After watching most of the Lord of the Rings films a few years ago, I hardly can remember the names of the characters, let alone the locations of the film. Characters are the driving force in the story while in a theme park locations are what set the mood.

In Harry Potter, the main characters name is the title, and his friends and enemies all have easy to remember names.  And while there are many locations, there is one iconic location, Hogwarts. Lord of the Rings seems to span the globe and it would be nearly impossible to find a location that would be most iconic to tell a complete story in a small space for a land.

And as for characters, there are far and few memorable characters let alone characters the average movie go’er would remember.

Family Friendly Appeal
When JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter books, they were intended to range from a family to adult audiences. The Lord of the Rings books are intended for a much more mature audience.

When creating a theme park, you design them with families in mind. Why, because in most cases families come in groups of 4, Parents and children. You are going to get more attendance, and ticket sales from families entering through your gates than gearing an enormous amount of real estate to a mature audience that brings in teens/ young adults without families, and where families would be less inclined to bring their children.

In the end there are many reasons why Lord of the Rings wouldn’t work, as well as a few strong arguments that would show why it would work. But in the end, there is one film left to be made before it is all over, and no hint of any agreement has been made to create a land.

While it would please the fans to have second breakfast, these two theme park giants might be better off looking in a different direction for intellectual property. Well why not build an entire park for Lord of the Rings? Find out why boutique parks might not be the best idea next week!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Six Flags (Not so great) America

By Terry Mulcahy

Six Flags America is Washington, DC’s home park, and that sucks.

It’s not that the park itself is terrible (more on that later) it’s that, as the park closest to the nation’s capital it’s a huge disappointment.

Of course, D.C. is lucky enough to have both Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens Williamsburg within a couple hours drive. But despite a notorious throng of tourists during D.C.’s hot ‘n’ humid summer months, Six Flags America is the only park to offer some form of public transport system from the city.

Six Flags is not a terrible park. But when the chain includes a “Great America” (near Chicago) it’s unfortunate that SFA... isn’t.

What it is though, is a mixed-bag. The park has some nicely-themed areas (the entry plaza is pretty, and the Coyote Creek section is appropriately rugged) and a sprinkling of badass rides (Superman: Ride of Steel is a solid Intamin Mega Coaster full of airtime but devoid of theming).

But for everything right, there’s a wrong.

The Gotham City area of the park is a depressing expanse of thinly decorated concrete plazas, the South West Territory section is little more than a dumping ground for fairground flats and the park’s two woodies are rough and forgettable.

A lot of complaints in the past have settled on poor operations and unfriendly staff, something which the park have taken great strides to address. Staff are usually friendly, enthusiastic and ready to offer high-fives and sing-a-longs in stations, but whether they will operate more than one train, is another matter. Strolling the midway, staff in day-glo shirts flash eager smiles and exude energy, even if all they are doing is hawking Flash Passes.

The park has had a shaky few years too. Removing their decently-themed kinda/sorta WaterCoaster “Skull Mountain” left the park with a huge, grinning skull facade and little to fill it. That is, until the B&M Standup Iron Wolf from Great America was relocated and re-themed as Apocalypse. (And fitted with fireballs!) A standup coaster offered a more compact layout than some alternatives but was never going to wow the enthusiasts. Renovations to the waterpark (included in admission) though, were a welcome step.

But it could be so much more!

If the park were to embrace Washington’s history and incorporate it more heavily into the theming, it might better befit the tourism juggernaut that the city has become. Sure, the upcoming Mardi Gras area sounds cute, but relocating a spinning coaster, adding a Flying Eagles ride and hanging a few colored beads won’t turn the park around.

Imagine a Mount Vernon Vekoma or a National Mall plaza? What about a White House-Whitewater River or a Congress Corkscrew?

If you’re in town, without a car, consider stopping by. If you have wheels though, there’s so much better nearby.

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